Jesper Eriksson's 'Between Beasts' is Both a Film and a Social Experiment
If you were taken by the film noir aesthetics and overall cinematic atmosphere of Playdead’s award winning computer game Limbo, then the cautionary tale Between Beasts from Swedish filmmaker Jesper Eriksson will feel like a welcome return to that monochrome world of danger and beauty. Get acquainted and watch the film after the jump:
The concept for Between Beasts (which stems from a reoccurring dream) had been bubbling around in Eriksson's mind for around two years; at one point laid out as a 20 page script with a full cast of voice actors onboard. However, as a student at Sweden's Natural Science School and with commitments to other projects vying for his time, Eriksson trashed his initial plans for the story and instead set out to complete a svelter version of the project on his own, augmenting his packed schedule with lots of late nights over the six month production period.
Working with a mix of Adobe Premiere, Photoshop, After Effects, Trapcode plugins (Particular & Mir) and 3DS Max, Eriksson traced trees, stones and other foliage from photographs taken in the forest and built up his scenes in 3D space -- enabling a natural parallax effect once his virtual cameras were animated around the scene. You can see how the various layers came together in this series of process images:
And Eriksson further discusses the creation of Between Beasts in this making of video:
Video is no longer available: vimeo.com/63585309
Due to the labor intensity of their production processes which accentuate the costly nature of mistakes, animators are renowned for meticulously planning out their work before committing to the creation of a scene. That said, Eriksson (perhaps due to his live action experience) was still able to incorporate elements of improvisation into the film:
The nebula or Milky Way scene in Between Beasts was actually the product of pure improvisation. I was playing around with the Trapcode Mir plugin and got it looking like a feint, stripy mist. I immediately started thinking of a nebula and kept experimenting with adding several more instances of Mir with different settings to create stars and transform the mist into the beautiful mess you see in the film. It felt way cool and fitted my disintegration scene perfectly. Sometimes it’s good to have the perfect, foolproof plan, other times art just happens.
Between Beasts has gained a fair amount of praise since its online debut at the beginning of the month (nearly 18K YouTube & 10.4K Vimeo views to date), however it's not all been plain sailing. Anyone who's spent even the briefest period scanning YouTube comments knows that they have a tendency to get flamey regardless of the quality of the video. A recurring bone of contention with regards to Between Beasts has centered around accusations that Eriksson 'stole' his werewolf character from Blizzard's World of Warcraft, prompting him to put out the above making of video to prove his innocence. However, it seems that a negative reaction is exactly what Eriksson was after all along, with the people trolling him, sending threats to his inbox and filling gaming forums with their vitriolic comments unwittingly filling the role of 'involuntary participants' in a psychological experiment on internet bullying as explained his post The World is a Beast. Here's an extract from that post's conclusion:
During one day I received intimidating threats in email and comments, people followed me on my social networks and started spreading harsh material. In 24 hours I had received a crowd that would do anything in their power to ruin everything in my life, from the contacts I had to the interviewees of my work. My phone kept vibrating from spam emails and my inboxes got crowded. Apparently I had a 20 page hate thread on a forum where people gathered up to trash talk about my work and me. They wished me dead and expelled from school and society;
People get very creative when trying to destroy something for someone else. I was expecting the Limbo reference to have a greater outcome, but instead the smaller detail of the werewolf model seemed to make the final hit. Even the smallest and most unexpected things can emerge a disastrous outcome. In this case the model was modeled, rigged, skinned and animated to mimic a Worgen character from the game World of Warcraft, which was the igniting force of a frenzy. I expected the tributing ending of Limbo to have this effect, but the WoW community seemed much more dedicated to their game. [sic]
NFS isn't really the place to launch into a discussion about internet bullying, however, does knowing that Between Beasts was conceived as part of an elaborate social experiment lessen its worth as a piece of filmmaking for you?